This will be the first among a few recurring posts where I break down and discuss different parts of the Oilers and how I think they are going to perform this coming year, their strengths and weaknesses and where we could use some help. If you have not read it already, Lowetide has done in depth reviews of practically every Oiler and should be required reading in these parts. That is a smart man people.
Young. Thats how I would describe the Oilers forward group in the coming year. And that may be good in a few years when they all start hitting their strides, however right now that means lost games (and by no means do I think they should trade this group for a win now mentality because we are not winning now either). More than a few.
Lets take a peek at what we have up front (based on possible lines we discussed earlier – these are my idea for lines):
Thats a young team folks. With an exception of the wingers on that third line and Horcoff, it looks like they are all under 30.
Strengths would be speed and youth. Those bottom 6 forwards should be able to bring the body and punish the other teams D (as well as a few annoying forwards). The entire team looks like they should be able to play an energetic up-tempo pace the entire game. One could call it an “Oilers” type of hockey.
Horcoff and O’Sullivan keep that line able to play power vs. power, and Hemsky keeps that line dangerous offensively. O’Sullivan should be able to score if he can click with Hemsky, and we know Horcoff can put up numbers.
Finally, and this is stretching it, but we do have 2 players sitting in the press box that can be used situationally. By that I mean for the NW games we can bring in SmackIntyre and hurt people (also keep Boogaard on a bench). And should one of the younger smaller players struggle, they can be spelled by Nilsson. I’m not as down on him as a lot of people, and he is effective when used correctly.
While youth is a strength, it’s also a weakness. There will be mental lapses. Goals will be scored against us. The second and fourth lines will need to be sheltered and played against the weakest lines other teams have.
The bottom 6 isn’t going to put a lot of goals in. And I’m a #18 fan. But they are not going to score.
They are small up front. The top 6 include founding members of the lollipop guild. They are going to be pushed around.
There is no legit sniper. There are a bunch of 20-30 goal scorers but no legit weapon to work in tandem with Hemsky.
Pretty well discussed in detail way back in the early days of the blog, but I feel there are two needs and one want for the forwards on this team. Should the league repeal the cap or the Canadiens wish to take all of our salary problems as well as the Rangers this is what we could use.
For needs, we need (NEED) a 3rd line center who can kill penalties and win a faceoff. There are a few kicking around out there, and they’re not expensive, but we just need to fix our cap problems. Another need is a scorer – a one shot scorer. This one is more difficult to acquire, and if we do it will require giving up a good good good player. I would actually prefer them to try and get it done via committee and wait for some of the younger guys to come in and maybe light it up because I don’t want to give up on any of the young core we have now. I also don’t want to see them go for Heatley. Imagine the cap mess we would be in if we got him, and then would have to trade him in a year or two. No thanks.
As for wants, that would just be size. If we could replace forwards we have with bigger players of the same age, skill, and dollars I would do it in a heart beat, but thats just a pipe dream.
I’m a homer. I like the team no matter what. So I like to think that this forward group can get it done. I think the kids will take a step and create a second scoring line that gets around 60-80 goals. I think that Hemsky takes another step and becomes that star, hitting over a point per game while O’Sullivan and Horcoff benefit. I’m guessing around 100 goals from that group. The third line will keep the puck out of our own net while pitching in 20 goals and then the fourth line beats some heads in and pots 10.
That said, we are an injury or slump away from missing the second season.